Last weekend, the New York Times published a lengthy piece on Sony and its woes. Sony is emblematic of a company that thrived in an Industrial Age mindset and is having trouble figuring its path in a Connected Age. While the article uses the recent earthquake/tsunami as a hook to talk about Sony’s troubles, it acknowledges that Sony’s had serious challenges long before Mother Nature exacted her toll. This ten year stock chart shows that Sony has never really recovered from the 2001 recession, and that the 2008/9 recession really hammered it.
The article addresses some of the problems that Sony faces, and this paragraph really stood out:
“What has set back Mr. Stringer’s turnaround effort, time and time again, is what he has called the company’s ‘silos’ — divisions and rivalries within the company that have prevented its many parts from working better together.”
Such silos are emblematic of the bureaucratic mindset that still prevails in many (most?) corporations.
Unlike Apple or even Samsung, Sony lacks any distinct vision for what it brings to the market. It seems they make stuff for the sake of making stuff, because, well, they’ve always made stuff. And when you marry silo-ness with Sony’s lack of vision, you get an inability to focus product efforts (the article points out that they’ve only just announced the discontinuation of the Walkman). You then further confuse the market with extremely hairy product lines. (The image under that link taken from Gizmodo’s excellent “We Miss Sony” feature last year.)
Here’s my simple (and doubtless simplistic) prescription for Sony:
- figure out who you are, what you stand for, and articulate that vision (internally)
- think about your offerings as services, not products
- think about how your can deliver better experiences, not cooler tech
- figure out meaningful podularity — focused small teams do the best work
- take Steve Jobs’ quote to heart: “[Innovation] comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”